Arlo|Smart Home Security|Wireless HD Security Cameras

Be able to modify the wireless channels of a base station in order to increase service reliability.

This is piggybacking an older Arlo Idea request with more than 140 votes, that was closed. 

 

Summary of the idea:

Allow users to adjust the Wi-Fi Radios settings of the base station, in order to be able to change the channel in which the base station transmit (in both 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz band).

 

Introduction:

With a lot of smart things in our home and the use of automation, a "good and reliable" wi-fi network is mission critical for our daily lives,  understanding that home security is super important as well.  In addition, we really love the hassle free approach that Arlo offers. 

 

Issue:

Arlo does not offer the option to modify the Wi-Fi radio settings of the base station,  most of the time the station use the same Wi-Fi channels of the existing home router/wireless infrastructure. This create a situation that channel contention occurs and creates co-channel interference, providing a poor user experience and downgrading the reliability aspect of both (security cameras and home network)

 

In the following image, the Arlo Base station is in the same channel of my home Wi-Fi router (Arlo uses 20 MHz channel width, my home router use 40 MHz width). So if you have 2 or 3 Netflix or youtube streams in your home network and the Arlo station is in the same channel, you will likely create a scenario that cameras would struggle to send data to the base stations or provide live feeds. 

 

Arlo Issue.png

 

 

 

 

Proposed Idea or Solution

 

Simple Option:

  • Create an option to tell the Arlo Base station to not use the existing channels of the wi-fi network. A menu could be created that Arlo prompts the owner which SSID is the home network, so the Arlo base is aware to not transmit and use the same channel of the home network. 

Advanced Option:

  • Create an option to allow some channels to be disabled in the 5 GHz and 2.4GHz. (and not allow a fixed channel to be selected that might be congested in the future and tentative disrupting the security cameras).

 

Conclusion and closing thoughts:

 

Any of these options would provide flexibility to the Arlo base station to select the best channel, without creating co-channel interference (or increasing channel contention) with the existing wi-fi router/wireless infrastructure, will not downgrade the hassle free approach of ARLO and will provide a reliable user experience to both security and wireless use cases.

 

P.D: A nice to have option is to be able to change the SSID name of the Arlo Base Station (but, baby steps first)

 

I hope that Arlo community support in this idea and Arlo engineering team understands that this is not about power users being picky, this is about increasing reliability to both Arlo and home wireless services.

 

Be safe.

 

mixtape.

 

 

Comments
Retired_Member
Not applicable

Option 4 - give us the option to set exclusions and a priority/preference order for channels.  I have to assume the channel selection process on the hub is dark and mysterious because it has to counter signal jamming, that locking in a specific channel might prevent it from jumping away from a jamming signal or similar (maybe I'm being generous with my assumptions here).  I actually resolved my signal issues yesterday. I gave up and plugged in an old access point beside the hub to pull it to the channel I wanted and stuck with a 1, 6, 11 scheme. For the hub I chose the channel with the fewest neighbouring access points on it as detected using a wifi analyzer at the location of the camera with the weakest connection, the idea being to improve the connection from that camera specifically by getting it to play nice with the few access points that might interfere with it. The result is my home WiFi performance improved a little and I got an extra bar of signal strength on two separate cameras as glorious reward. My weakest camera was showing highly variable, weak to good signal in the evenings (viewed using the positioning utility) 1 bar, now good to strong with solid 2 bars and holding steady.  My most critical camera over the front door went from 2 to 3 bars. I just wish it was easier - Arlo control the firmware on both hub and cameras. They could do amazing things with that, with cameras doubling as WiFi analyzers feeding data to the hub periodically for channel selection - a site survey on demand enabling the hub to calculate and choose the perfect channel. Ah well. I'd settle for being able to exclude all but channels 1, 6 and 11 and setting an order of preference. That would work too.

Edinburgh_lad1
Luminary

As many have already pointed out, the easiest way to avoid Arlo using the same channel as your router is to get a powerline plug and plug your Arlo base station to it and the powerline plug to the router. Then, once you change channels on the router, Arlo won't follow. If you have no powerline plugs, you can do the same by connecting an old access point.

Retired_Member
Not applicable

Thanks for the power-line adapter suggestion, though that assumes you can move the hub far enough away from your router or access point so that it keeps the same channel when it restarts, rather than matching the channel of the strongest signal.  Many people don't have that option - in my case, I ran CAT5 cable to the hub to provide a connection and moving the hub much from it's current location degrades the signal to one or other of my cameras.  I have two existing wireless access points in the house.  I have now plugged in a third access point just to control the channel the Arlo hub is on.

This is working better but also not working.  I've found that the signal bars do not update in real time so are not useful for finding the best spot for the hub, but do seem to update if you stream video from the camera.  I've found that the signal bar is not a good indicator of the quality of the stream from a specific camera at any given time - I've gotten a solid strong stream for minutes at a time from a camera with 1 bar, as observed using the camera positioning utility, and a highly variable weak to good stream, with connection drop outs, from a camera with 2 bars.  I'm reduced to using the positioning utility, a timer and a stopwatch and noting what percentage of time time the camera has a strong stream as a way to test for Wi-Fi issues and improve hub placement.  In fairness to Arlo on this point - while the house is not very big it does have concrete external and internal walls, which makes hub placement very much more complicated than it would be in say the US, where houses are mostly built of cardboard and good intentions.

The result is I've learned a lot more than I wanted to about how Wi-Fi interference works.  There are three access points in the local area which are causing adjacent-channel interference.  Two of them jump from channel to channel every day or two, using channels other than 1, 6 and 11, and the channels those are on relative to the channel my hub is on appears to have a very significant impact on the signal to two of my cameras.  The affected cameras are those which have the most concrete between them and the hub and are on the side of the house where the interfering signals appear to be coming from.

Sometimes a camera *should* record a video but does not appear to, such as when I walk all the way around my house.  Other cameras are triggered fine but occasionally one or other camera fails - it is either not recording or is failing to send the video to the hub.  I had assumed that the video is buffered on the camera and transmitted to the hub when the Wi-Fi connection is restored but perhaps this is not the case.  If the buffer on the camera is small then the video basically vanishes if the Wi-Fi connection is bad at that moment.

The solution is probably to buy another hub, so I can provide a better connection to all cameras from one or other of two hubs, but I'm loath to spend more money on this system at this time given the number of problems I'm running into.  I'm going to have to track down the neighboring access points which are jumping channel and ask their owners to stick with 1, 6 or 11 before I can verify that interference is the reason some videos which should be there never reach local storage or the cloud.  If I do verify that then a second hub would solve the problem, though it also means I could easily build a small jammer using stuff I have in the house, a cloak of invisibility.  Without going into details - the hub really needs to be able to detect the Wi-Fi conditions at the cameras, not just the hub, and jump channel quickly without restarting the hub if this system is to work reliably in places where most houses are built from stone, brick or concrete.  The signal reported by the camera positioning utility on the day the camera is installed does not appear to be good indicator of the signal that camera will have over time as the Wi-Fi environment around the house changes.  It also needs allow the SSID to be changed or hidden - Screaming 'Arlo system installed here and running on this channel!' into the wireless void is seriously not a good look.  Seriously.  It's bad.  Very, very, very bad.  Investigations continue.

pinny73
Novice

4 Unifi In-wall access points all back-hauled to a unifi switch and UDM Pro providing a solid network and wifi experience on bothe 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels  I have invested significant $ in this setup. This issue with the Arlo base station is causing significant issues and has consumed many hours trying to implement workarounds.

 

I have implemented a workaround for the issue on 5Ghz channels but I cannot get a consistent workaround for 2.4Ghz.

 

I have setup an old access point ("follow"), next to the Arlo base station on a 20Mhz 5Ghz channel so that Arlo follows this and does not interfere with my 4 in-wall unifi access points.  It will follow the 5Ghz channel after a few miniutes after starting up (overlaps at first) so I can distribute my access points on 4 non-overlapping 40Mhz channels. 

 

I have not had any luck on 2.4Ghz channels which I use for IOT devices.  The Arlo base station will occasionally follow the "follow" access point's 2.4Ghz channel for up to a day.  After a day it will revert to channel 3 or 9 causing cross channel interference which is worse that consuming channel utilisation with some of my unifi access points.  This causes some of my IOT devices (which only support 2.4Ghz) to drop out and go offline. It also  reduces the range of the Arlo access point to the extent of going from 4 bars on the camera the longest distance away (when the channels are separated) down a medium or even a weak signal so the camera goes offline.

 

I can't seem to find a solution to this problem.  I have spent a lot of time re-configuring my unifi wireless access points  so that I only use two channels e.g. 6 and 11 and putting my "follow" router on the other channel, e.g. 1.  I have tried the 3 different combinations.  After a while the Arlo base station will start using an overlapping channel, e.g. 3 or 9 always causing interference with a number of my access points.

 

This issue really needs fixing.   In my opinion, the product is not fit for purpose as it stands.

Retired_Member
Not applicable

I'm still experimenting but can confirm this much:

 

- The Arlo hub (VMB 4540) will chase the 2.4Ghz channel of a very strong signal associated with a non-hidden SSID it detects when it restarts

- It does not appear to chase hidden SSIDs (at least not when I tried it once)

- If there are no very strong signals detected by the hub it appears to choose a free overlapping channel with a belligerent intent to make the system work as poorly as possible (not really, it was just designed using the kind of channel choice logic that works inside a city apartment, not with outdoor devices in dense suburbs.  In my case if I turn off my 'steering' AP and restart, the hub it jumps to channel 9 - 'small apartment in Hong Kong mode')

- The signal strength threshold is a mystery - just by moving the antenna on my steering AP the hub would either follow it or not follow it after a restart

- The hub appears to periodically re-evaluate it's channel without restarting so in my case, if I turn off the steering AP, it seems to sometimes, eventually, choose another channel, though I'm not 100% certain whether it can restart itself if an error occurs and that's what is happening

- In my environment it pretty much always chooses a terrible channel if left un-steered

- A non-overlapping channel with some CCI (choosing channel 1, 6 or 11 and sharing it with a few neighbors) pretty much always works better for me than an overlapping channel

- I experience the worst problems when some of the APs in the closest neighboring houses jump to channel that overlap with whatever channel my hub is on, when those neighbors are on the side of the house with the cameras which have the weakest signal

- I experience zero problems when my hub matches the channel of neighbors' APs, on 1, 6 or 11 (not necessarily my own AP) when the channel chosen isn't too busy and there's no strong overlapping signals on adjacent channels that day (today, using a WiFi analyzer and choosing the channel I went from poor average signal (on positioning utility) to a 100% strong signal for 5 minutes straight on one problem camera, while the other problem camera stayed strong before and after the change

---This makes a lot of sense and I will never again doubt the wisdom of sticking with channels 1, 6 or 11.  CCI with the strongest neighboring signals means those APs will not transmit at the same moment a camera is transmitting a frame (packet) and so are less likely to cause interference.  In essence - I can make some of my loudest neighbors go silent when the camera needs to communicate. This is moderately important indoors, but critical for 'clearing' a channel a little when a camera is transmitting so that the hub can receive the signals with minimal interference though the walls of the building.  Arlo camera don't need a lot of bandwidth, but to get a signal through lots of think walls they need a quiet channel with minimal adjacent-channel interference at the hub.

 

I've ordered a second hub, because I've realized it's wildly impractical in my case to keep changing the channel the hub is on in order to keep everything working nicely.  I'll have to keep the signal strong to all cams via hub placement, not channel choice.  I am going to ask some of my neighbors to pick non-overlapping channels and stick with them, to make sure the system with two hubs will work with zero intervention in future once I can pick a channel and be pretty sure of minimal ACI.  I've started making some Youtube videos to explain how to resolve intermittent Wi-Fi problems with an Arlo system, which should be helpful to others to determine if and when buying a 2nd hub is necessary.  I'll post links on the idea exchange board when they're done.